VALRICO — Something smelled funny.
It was early April. Daniel McKay and Katherine Pulker had just closed on the house they planned to start their family in. They figured they’d might have some painting to do, but that their new home would be move-in ready within a week, well ahead of their May 26 wedding.
"We went in after closing and turned on the AC and took out all the Glade Plug-ins," McKay said. "It was pretty fast and pretty distinct when it happened."
The couple said they were overwhelmed by the stench of stale cat urine that, unbeknownst to them, was deeply embedded in the drywall and insulation.
That’s why McKay is suing Realtor Deborah Clark and Link Realty for negligence, breach of contract and failure to disclose hidden defects that left the house "uninhabitable," according to the lawsuit.
It alleges that Clark used the property to house up to 25 feral, stray and abandoned cats at a time for the nonprofit Cat Call, a cat rescue operation she runs. The newlyweds still haven’t been able to move in, McKay said.
"We thought it would be, not a quick fix, but something we could handle quick and easy by our wedding day," he said. "By the end of the first week, we realized we weren’t going to be able to handle it on our own.
"We had to get contractors. This is our first house. We’re a newlywed couple. We don’t have a ton of money."
The house, located in the Bloomingdale area of Valrico, was supposed to have new paint, baseboards and carpet, according to a realtor.com listing.
It was all a ruse, according to the lawsuit filed July 20 in Hillsborough Circuit Court, tactics undertaken to cover up the allegedly unsavory odors.
"Prior to the sale of the property ... Ms. Clark engaged in a scheme to conceal the damage done to the property, and the noxious odors emanating from the property," McKay’s lawyer wrote in the complaint, "by, but not limited to, installing new carpet, replacing baseboards, painting over urine saturated drywall and insulation, and through the use of masking deodorizers to hide the stench of cat urine from prospective purchasers."
McKay had visited the house before the purchase, the suit said, but couldn’t pick up on any odors because of those "deceptive practices."
Lillian Lobello, owner of Link Realty in Brandon said she could neither confirm nor deny McKay’s allegations. She said Clark is still employed by her company.
McKay confronted Clark about the issues and she agreed to replace the air-conditioning unit and duct work, according to the lawsuit. However, the suit says that after he pulled up the baseboards, he realized years of cat urine had soaked into the drywall and insulation.
The couple hopes they can move into their new home in early August.
Times senior news researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this report. Daniel Figueroa IV can be reached at [email protected] Follow @danuscripts